Belfast Telegraph

Parents must learn to safeguard children on net

Editor's Viewpoint

The dangers of social media were well-illustrated in a recent court case where a father was attempting to block his teenage daughter from using Facebook.

He claimed that his daughter had been posting "sexually suggestive" images of herself on Facebook, and he was trying to force the site to stop publishing anything by her, and to take action to prevent her from using it again.

However, the judge ruled that this was not feasible practically, Facebook's defence amounting, he said, to admitting that it had created "something of a monster" which "it cannot control".

The judge ruled that the court could not effectively enforce and supervise an order to prevent the girl from accessing the site again because she could do so by a variety of devices over which the court has no control.

Clearly we have moved into a whole new technological era where parents are finding it increasingly difficult to control what their children are seeing and doing through Facebook and other means of modern communication.

While the case has set limits on Facebook's responsibility, it does not clear up the question as to where its responsibility lies.

Many parents would argue strongly that Facebook does have responsibilities, like all the other social media, to protect minors.

The question is how this can be worked out. The reality of the situation has been underlined by the child protection expert Jim Gamble who said that parents "cannot rely on everyone else to protect their children".

He also urged parents to accept the fact that if they do not understand the new technology well enough, they are going to have to learn more about it.

This is not quite as easy as it sounds, and many parents will need help to get themselves up to speed with technology.

The authorities should also try to support the parents as best they can, and try to ensure protection for vulnerable children. The alternative is that a state of anarchy will continue to develop on the internet. This must be avoided.

Belfast Telegraph


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